Author: Robert Joe Stout
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
First Published: 2014
Page Count: 171
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 2/5 Stars
*Worst Book of 2015 on Without a Book
A short story that tries to say a lot about politics in Oaxaca, but doesn’t give the reader enough to create a full-blown narrative.
*Clunky Beginning *Too Short *Disjointed Storyline *Spanish Heavy Dialogue
“Waving jauntily she swirled out of his grasp into the milling crowd of sweatered and jacketed university students, housewives and shoving teachers who’d spent the past hours waving People’s Popular Assembly banners and denouncing the state government and everyone associated with it.” George finds himself amongst anti-government protestors whose movement his girlfriend, Patricia, also supports, when chaos erupts. Patricia is kidnapped by the corrupt police and George finds himself rescued from federal police assault by a young woman named Claudi. George is frantic to save Patricia from her inhuman prison, but also finds himself falling for the mysterious Claudi who has agreed to help him find Patricia. Will George save Patricia or will he find his healing in the arms of the firecracker, Claudi?
This story was not really my cup of tea. However, I was surprised to find that by the end when the author throws his shocking and sad twist ending into the mix I realized I had started to connect to the characters and was somewhat invested the story. I couldn’t give this review one star, because the ending wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I hadn’t started to care about the characters and what happened to them. So for where the story takes the reader, that alone garnered the two stars.
But now onto why I couldn’t completely get behind this book. For one, the dialogue is very heavy in its use of Spanish. Nothing against the language, but I don’t speak it and am too lazy to use “Google Translate” that many times so it caused me to skip over sections of dialogue whenever I saw the italics because I knew I’d have no clue what they were saying. Initially, I also really had trouble following along with the story at the beginning of the book. There isn’t enough background given about Patricia and George before we are thrust into the kidnapping scene. The book needed to be longer to introduce us a bit more to these characters so that we would be more invested when big events like the protest come up. I also couldn’t get a handle on what the story was really about. Is it about George trying to save Patricia? The answer must be no, because that piece of the plot gets wrapped up and never really spoken of again. Is it about his romance with Claudi or maybe this improved irrigation system that his students are trying to build? The irrigation part of the story was the most confusing because I didn’t see how it connected to what happened to Patricia in the beginning. It just sort of became the story for the last half of the book. So overall, I guess it was a love story, but with a touch of drama having to do with the corrupt government. Your guess is as good as mine.
Most of the time I spent reading this was a struggle. It took me awhile to like Claudi because I couldn’t just forget about Patricia as easily as the main character could. However, by the end the author did surprise me with his conclusion which left a good taste in my mouth about the reading experience. However, it doesn’t erase the other issues I had with the book and because of that I gave it two out of five stars.
*I received a free copy of this book for this review from the author.